Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going Snake Massacre Part II

Last time I wrote very briefly about the Going Snake Massacre that occurred in present-day Adair County (near the present-day community of Christie). The events that led up to the massacre are probably at least as interesting as the massacre itself.
Zeke Proctor's killing of Polly Beck that led to the massacre also occurred in present-day Adair County a few miles west of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, on Flint Creek at the Hildebrand mill. Polly Beck, who had something of a reputation as a loose woman, had been married to Steve Hildebrand, former owner of the mill, but he had been killed during the Civil War, and she was running the mill with Jim Kesterson, who was either her fourth husband or her lover.
Although the Proctors and the Becks were both mixed-blood Cherokees, a rift had developed between the two families. A number of reasons have been suggested for the rift. Although Zeke Proctor, like Polly Beck, had a white father, Proctor was a member of the Keetoowah Society, a Cherokee group that strongly favored traditional tribal ways and resented white encroachment on the Cherokee way of life, while the Becks were not members of the society. Like most Keetoowahs, Proctor had fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War, while the Becks had fought on the side of the Confederacy. (Generally speaking, the rift among the Cherokees dated back to their removal from the Southeast during the 1830s when the tribe split into a Treaty Party that did not strongly oppose the removal and an Anti-Treaty Party that did. Whether this split was a specific factor in the Proctor-Beck feud is not known, but the Keetoowahs mainly grew out of the Anti-Treaty Party.)
As a member of the Keetoowahs, Proctor resented Polly Beck's relationship with a white man, and a somewhat dubious report also suggested that Proctor might have had a romantic interest in Polly himself. At any rate, he particularly resented Kesterson, because, at least according to some reports, Kesterson had once been married to Proctor's sister and had abandoned her and her children.
Proctor, who had a reputation for brawling and was even said to have previously killed at least a couple of men, showed up at the mill about February 13, 1872, to confront Kesterson. Apparently they argued and ended up going for their guns. According to most reports, Polly tried to intervene between the two men and ended up taking an accidental fatal bullet from Proctor's gun, while Kesterson escaped with a minor injury.


Blogger Sean McLachlan said...

Strange that the Keetoowahs, traditionalists who opposed government policy, ended up on the side of the Union. Do you know why that happened?

October 18, 2013 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

There were a number of factors that led to this. For one thing, the Treaty Party tended to be mixed race Cherokees who had adopted white ways, including owning black blacks. The Anti-Treaty Party (and later the Keetoowahs) were more likely to have 100% or almost 100% Cherokee blood and less likely to adopt white ways like slavery. Also, most of the white Indian agents were Southern sympathizers who used their influence to try to enlist the Cherokees to the Southern cause. The Keetoowahs were less likely to go along with the white agents than the Treaty Party Indians.

October 18, 2013 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Didn't meant to say "owning black blacks." Meant to say "owning black slaves."

October 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM  

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